Reuters - Wal-Mart Stores misled US shoppers by selling organic eggs laid by hens raised in enclosed structures under package labels that said the birds had access to the outdoors, a federal lawsuit alleged on Monday.
The suit highlights uncertainty among consumers about production practices in the $500m organic egg industry, farmers said, after the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) last month shelved plans to spell out for the first time what it means for birds to have access to the outdoors.
Wal-Mart sells cartons of eggs to shoppers at a premium under its Organic Marketside brand with labels saying the eggs came from hens with “outdoor access,” according to the lawsuit filed by a customer.
However, the birds are raised by Cal-Maine Foods inside enclosed structures that have screens to let in air, the complaint said.
“Consumers paying more for these eggs have been deceived,” the lawsuit said. “The theoretical ability to view the outdoors is not the same as having access to it.”
Wal-Mart said it had not reviewed the allegations, but was taking them seriously.
“We hold our suppliers to high standards and are committed to providing our customers the quality products they expect,” spokesman Randy Hargrove said.
Representatives of Cal-Maine, which is the biggest US egg producer and also named in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.